The best travel credit cards in Canada for 2020

Ratehub.ca
by Ratehub.ca January 2, 2020 / 8 Comments

Travel can be expensive, but a good travel credit card can help offset the cost — or help you travel for free — by rewarding you points or miles for making everyday purchases.

In addition to earning points that can be redeemed for everything from flight tickets and hotel stays to cruises, vacation packages and more, several travel cards also offer side perks including access to VIP airport lounges, welcome bonus offers, and travel insurance that can further help you save on travel.

To help you decode the ins and outs of travel rewards programs, we’ve rounded up the best travel credit cards in Canada for 2020.


Best travel credit cards in Canada for 2020

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Best overall travel points credit card

American Express Cobalt

  • Annual fee: $120 (charged at $10 monthly)
  • Earn 5 points per $1 on dining and groceries
  • Earn 2 points per $1 on gas, taxis, public transit and travel (air, water, rail, or hotels)
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • Welcome Offer: up to 30,000 bonus points in your first year
  • Income required: No specific amount

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

The American Express Cobalt continues to cement its place as one of Canada’s best travel credit cards in 2020 – offering five points for every dollar spent on “eats and drinks” and two points per dollar on “travel and transit.” When redeemed for hotel stays or flights on any airline, points are worth $0.01 each.

The welcome offer is another of the Cobalt’s standout features and is worth around $300. You’ll earn 2,500 bonus points each month you spend at least $500 during your first year as a new cardholder (up to 30,000 points).

Why we like it:

Along with its strong earn rate and up to 30,000 point welcome bonus, the American Express Cobalt offers cardholders access to AMEX’s lucrative Fixed Points Travel Program. By tapping this program, you can squeeze upwards of 50%-75% more value out of your points when flying round-trip out of Canada on any airline. The Cobalt’s $120 annual fee is also easier to manage as it’s charged at a monthly rate of $10 rather than all at once.

Card travel insurance benefits:

The card includes a full suite of travel insurance benefits, including travel emergency medical ($5,000,000 for 15 days) and travel accident insurance ($250,000), flight delay ($500) and baggage loss/delay ($500 per trip). The Cobalt’s car rental insurance covers collision, loss and damage for vehicles with an MSRP of up to $85,000.

Additional perks:

American Express Cobalt cardholders get access to special offers including ticket pre-sales and reserved seats for concerts, movies and culinary events through American Express Invites, as well as 24/7 concierge services. Authorized users are also free to add and won’t cost the typical $39 to $50 annually.


Best travel credit card for everyday spending

Scotiabank Gold American Express

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Earn 5 Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent on groceries, restaurants, cafes, and entertainment
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on gas, public transit, and streaming services
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on everything else
  • Welcome Offer: Up to 20,000 bonus points (value: $200)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Income required: $12,000

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

The Scotiabank Gold American Express offers impressive rewards on your usual daily purchases. With this card, you get five Scotia Rewards points for every dollar you spend on groceries, restaurants and entertainment, three points per dollar on gas, daily transit, and streaming services, and one point per dollar on everything else. New Scotiabank accountholders can also earn a 20,000 point bonus after spending $1,000 within the first three months. When redeemed for travel, 5,000 Scotia Rewards points equals $50, which works out to the equivalent of 1 point = $0.01.

Since the Scotiabank Gold American Express and the aforementioned American Express Cobalt are undeniably similar, it can be tough deciding between the two. But, each does have its advantages over the other.

The Scotiabank Gold American Express comes out ahead in terms of rewards on bonus categories like gas and entertainment, and for waiving its foreign transaction fees, while the American Express Cobalt offers more points on travel, a bigger sign up bonus, and access to AMEX’s valuable Fixed Points Travel Program.

Why we like it:

In addition to its rich rewards structure, which will earn you some of the highest returns on your food and commute-related spending, points earned on the Scotiabank Gold American Express are super flexible. There are no restrictions on travel dates or airlines, and points can be used to cover taxes and fees. You can choose to book your travel through Scotia’s full-service agency or on your own and use points to cover the cost.

Since it has no foreign transaction fees, you also won’t have to worry about racking up additional charges when making purchases abroad (which will come in handy particularly when travelling south of the border, where AMEX is widely accepted).

Travel insurance benefits:

Book your trip on this card and you’ll be covered up to $1 million for travel medical emergencies for 25 days. This card also features travel accident insurance of $500,000, rental car damage and collision insurance, hotel burglary coverage in North America, and baggage delay insurance of $1,000 per trip that comes into effect after only 4 hours.

Additional perks:

As an AMEX accountholder, you can sign up for American Express Invites and Offers to receive pre-sale tickets to events and special offers from partner retailers. The card also offers a 30% discount on a Priority Pass lounge membership (discounted annual membership is $65 USD, and each lounge visit costs $27 USD).


Best travel credit cards for frequent flyers

TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $120 (waived for the first year)
  • Welcome offer: Get 20,000 TD Points ($100 value) after you make your first purchase
  • Earn 9 TD Points per $1 on travel booked online through the ExpediaforTD website
  • Earn 3 TD Points per $1 on your everyday purchases
  • Get 5X the points on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to a max of 20,000 points per month)
  • Income required: $60,000

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

The TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite is arguably the go to credit card for frequent travellers, thanks in no small part to its flexible airline options and high return on travel spending.

Through TD’s and Expedia’s co-branded website (ExpediaforTD.com), cardholders can earn and redeem points for flights from hundreds of airlines as well as hotels and other travel-related expenses, such as car rentals and all-inclusive vacations. For all online purchases made through ExpediaforTD, this card will earn you 9 TD points per dollar. 1 TD Point = $0.005 when redeemed on ExpediaforTD’s website, so that adds up to a strong 4.5% on almost all travel spending. For all your other everyday purchases, this card offers 3 TD points per dollar.

The TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite also provides new cardholders with a first-year annual fee waiver and a two-tiered points bonus: 20,000 TD points after the initial purchase and the ability to rack up five times the points on every purchase for the first three months up to a total of 60,000 points.

Why we like it:

First and foremost: The welcome offer. The 80,000 TD point bonus combined with the annual fee waiver means new cardholders can get up to $520 in added value in the first year alone.

This card also offers one of the richest rewards for travel spending, with a regular earn rate of 4.5% per dollar on any purchase made on the ExpediaforTD website. That’s more than double the rewards rate on travel spending offered by most of the other cards on this list and considerable bang for your buck if you’re a frequent flyer who spends big on flights.

With the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite, you’ll also have flexibility on your side as this card offers access to Expedia’s complete inventory of airlines and hotels. That means you won’t have to worry about black-out dates or seat restrictions. Lastly, with the ability to redeem rewards from increments of only 200 points, you won’t have to rack up thousands of points before you can put them to good use.

Card travel insurance benefits:

This card includes up to $1 million in travel medical insurance for 21 consecutive days (or 4 days for seniors), trip cancellation coverage of $1,500 per person and $1,000 in lost or delayed baggage insurance. You’ll also get the standard auto collision and loss damage waiver for rental cars for a period of up to 48 consecutive days.

Additional perks:

Cardholders can get up to 10% off car rentals from select Avis and Budget locations and an annual discount to Priority Pass Memberships.


BMO World Elite Mastercard

  • $150 annual fee (waived for the first year)
  • Earn 3 BMO Rewards points per $1 on travel, dining, and entertainment purchases
  • Get 2 points per $1 on everything else
  • Welcome bonus: Earn up to 35,000 bonus points (value: $250)
  • VIP lounge access with the included Mastercard Airport Experiences membership, plus 4 complimentary passes per year ($140 value)
  • Income required: $80,000

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

The BMO World Elite Mastercard is a popular card for frequent travellers who tend to spend big on going out and airfare. With this card, you’ll get airport lounge access and earn three BMO Rewards points per dollar on travel, restaurant, and entertainment purchases, and two points per dollar on everything else. If you spend $3,000 on the card within the first three months, you can earn 35,000 bonus points ($250 value). The card’s annual fee is $150, which is waived for new cardholders for the first year.

BMO Points can be redeemed for flights, as well as hotels, vacation packages, and car rentals at a rate of 140 points for $1 (or about 0.7% per point).

Why we like it:

This card is big on perks and flexibility and offers the ability to redeem points for flights on virtually any airline with no blackout dates (points can also be used to cover taxes and fees). Not to mention, the BMO World Elite Mastercard currently boasts one of the strongest welcome offers of any travel credit card in Canada with a potential combined value of $400.

The card also comes with an annual Mastercard Airport Experiences membership (plus four free passes per year), which gives you access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world ($140 in added value).

Card travel insurance benefits:

The card includes coverage under World Elite travel insurance, which offers $2 million in travel emergency medical (for up to 21 days, ages 65 and under) and $500,000 in travel accident insurance.

Additional perks:

BMO offers a price match guarantee when redeeming points for flights. The card also offers access to 24/7 concierge services and discounts on Cirque du Soleil shows across Canada.


Best no fee travel credit card

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 2 points per $1 on gas, groceries and restaurant purchases ($5,000 annual cap on each category)
  • For the first 90 days, earn 4 points per $1 spent on the three bonus categories mentioned above
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: Get up to 10,000 bonus points
  • Income required: No specific amount

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

The MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard is a no-fee travel card that gives you two points for every dollar spent on gas, groceries and dining (up to $5,000 annually per each category) and one point per dollar on everything else.

Points can be used to book flights on any airline (including taxes and fees) with no blackout dates. When redeemed for travel, 1 MBNA point equals $0.01 (1%).

Why we like it:

The card has no annual fee but still offers the ability to earn bonus points in three different spending categories. Plus, as a new cardholder, you can earn a 10,000 point welcome bonus – 5,000 points after spending $500 within the first 90 days of opening your account and another 5,000 points just for signing up for online e-statements in those same 90 days.

Card travel insurance benefits:

Even with no annual fee, the card comes with a strong insurance package that includes common carrier accident coverage, car rental collision/loss damage waiver, and trip cancellation insurance in instances when an immediate relative passes away and you have to travel back home. The one drawback: It doesn’t include out of province travel emergency medical insurance.


Also consider: Scotiabank American Express Card

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 1 Scotia Rewards point per $1 on all purchases
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points with your first $500 in purchases in first 3 months
  • Redeem for travel, merchandise, gift cards, or statement credit
  • Income required: No specific amount

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

For a travel card with no annual fee, the Scotiabank American Express is one of the best in Canada. While its flat earn rate and welcome bonus are slightly less impressive than that of the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus (which we listed as our favourite no fee travel card), it still deserves an honourable mention.

For one, the Scotia Rewards Program is super flexible and easy to understand (1 point = 1% when redeemed for travel on any airline). There’s also the fact you aren’t forced to use the bank’s proprietary website when redeeming for travel, and can simply apply points to any travel purchase you make on your card.

Additionally, this card does offer travel medical emergency insurance, which is lacking on most no fee cards, including the MBNA Rewards Plus. Travellers are insured with $1 million in emergency medical insurance for eight consecutive days, $250,000 in travel accident insurance, trip interruption coverage, and car rental collision/loss damage. All impressive insurance terms for a card that costs nothing to carry.


Best no foreign transaction fee travel credit card

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $139
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 2 Scotia Rewards points on every $1 spent on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment, and transit purchases
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other eligible purchases
  • Welcome Offer: Get up to 25,000 bonus points ($250 value)
  • Includes Priority Pass airport lounge membership with 6 free visits per year
  • Income required: $60,000

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on purchases made in a non-Canadian currency and also comes with complimentary access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide.

With this card, you’ll earn two Scotia Rewards points for every dollar spent on groceries, dining, entertainment (including movies, concert tickets, musicals, plays and orchestras), and transit (including public transit, taxis, trains, and rideshares). For all other purchases, you’ll earn one point per dollar. You can redeem Scotia Rewards points for flights on any carrier with no date restrictions at a rate of $0.01 per point.

Why we like it:

The 0% foreign transaction fee will save you 2.5% on all your international purchases, and is the icing on the cake of a card rich with perks, spending bonuses, and flexibility. If you spend $1,000 on the card in the first three months, you can earn 25,000 bonus points. The card also includes a Priority Pass membership with six free visits annually to VIP airport lounges worldwide. Lastly, the fact it’s issued by Visa means the card is widely accepted internationally.

Card travel insurance benefits:

This card offers the same suite of travel insurance benefits as the aforementioned Scotiabank Gold American Express – including travel emergency medical and accident coverage, trip cancellation and interruption, flight delay, baggage loss, car rental collision/loss damage waiver and more (read full insurance details here).

Additional perks:

If you make at least $40,000 in purchases annually on the card, you’ll earn an additional 10,000 Scotia Rewards points.


Also consider: Home Trust Preferred Visa

  • No annual fee
  • 0% foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad
  • Earn 1% cash back on all Canadian purchases, with no limit on the amount you can earn
  • Complimentary roadside assistance membership included
  • Not available to residents of Quebec
  • Income required: No specific amount

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

The Home Trust Preferred Visa isn’t a travel credit card per se but it does offers travellers a major benefit most credit cards lack: 0% foreign transaction fees. This means if you make a purchase in an international currency, it doesn’t charge any additional fees (most cards tack on a fee of 2.5% of the purchase price). With this card, you’ll also earn 1% cash back on all your Canadian purchases and won’t owe an annual fee.

Why we like it:

It’s one of the few credit cards currently on the market in Canada with no foreign transaction fees. With no annual fee, this is a good card to keep in your back pocket if you travel frequently or make a lot of purchases abroad in foreign currencies. There’s also no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn on the card.

Card travel insurance benefits:

As a no annual fee card, the Home Trust Preferred Visa doesn’t boast as comprehensive of an insurance package as the other cards on this list. With that being said, it does offer rental car collision and loss damage provided by Royal Sun & Alliance Company of Canada.

Additional perks:

The Home Trust Preferred Visa is among the handful of credit cards with free roadside assistance.


Honourable mentions


Best hotel credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Earn 5 points in eligible Card purchases at participating Marriott Rewards hotels and 2 points on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: Earn up to 50,000 bonus points
  • Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite Status
  • Income required: No specific amount

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

For many frequent travellers, earning points that can be redeemed for discounted accommodation or a free nights stay at a hotel is just as (if not more) important as securing a deal on a flight.

Enter the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. Relaunched in February 2019 following the merger of Starwood and Marriott, this card offers 5 points per dollar spent at any of the 7,000 hotels under the Marriott umbrella and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases. Points can be redeemed for free nights at any of those same 7,000 hotels, which include brands such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Ritz Carlton, Sheraton, Delta and over a dozen others. This card also features a large welcome bonus of 50,000 points after spending your first $1,500.

Why we like it:

This credit card gives one of the highest returns on hotel bookings at 5 points per dollar, with points that can be redeemed at over 7,000 hotels worldwide. If you hit the welcome offer spending threshold, you’ll also earn enough free points to book up to four free night stays at select hotels. Another added plus of this card is its wide array of point transfer options. You can convert Bonvoy points to the loyalty programs of over 40 airlines.

Additional benefits:

With a Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card, you’ll receive a free hotel stay each year on your cardholder anniversary. You’ll also automatically be enrolled into Bonvoy Silver Elite status, which offers a number of perks including priority late checkouts and discounts on bookings and gift store purchases at participating hotels.


Best Air Miles credit card

Air Miles World Elite

  • Annual fee: $120 (waived for first year)
  • Earn 1 Air Mile for every $10 you spend
  • Earn 1,000 bonus Miles after your first purchase
  • Get an additional 2,000 bonus Miles after spending $3,000 on the card within 3 months
  • VIP lounge access plus 2 complimentary passes per year
  • Income required: $80,000

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

If you’re an Air Miles loyalist, the Air Miles World Elite from BMO should definitely be on your radar. At 0.1 Miles per dollar, this card offers one of the best earn rates on everyday purchases of any Air Miles credit card in Canada. Plus, like with all Air Miles credit cards, you can collect double the Miles when you shop at participating Air Miles retailers and also show your Air Miles Collector Card. Air Miles’ retail network is huge and includes stores like Sobeys, Rexall, Shell, LCBO, and more.

In addition to its strong rewards rate, the BMO Air Miles World Elite comes with great perks. The card offers a robust insurance package with over 14 types of travel coverage including $2 million in emergency medical protection (as opposed to the standard $1 million found on most rival cards) and rental car personal effects insurance (rare for a credit card). Finally, this card boasts airport lounge access with two complimentary annual passes to a network of over 1,000 lounges.


Best credit card for travel insurance

National Bank World Elite

  • Annual fee: $150
  • Earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spend up to $40,000 annually, two points for every dollar you spend up to $80,000, and 1.5 points if you spend beyond $80,000
  • Welcome offer: Get $40 each month you spend at least $500 on the card (maxes out at $480)
  • Income required: $80,000
  • Up to $5 million in travel medical medical insurance for 60 days

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

The National Bank World Elite offers great everyday rewards, but the reason it’s made our list is specifically for its stellar insurance benefits.

Arguably its best feature, this card’s insurance offers up to $5 million in out of province travel emergency medical coverage, which is quadruple the coverage amount offered by most other travel cards. Its coverage period also lasts for up to 60 consecutive days for cardholders under the age 55 and 31 days for those between 55 and 65 – not the typical 15 to 25 days – which is handy for frequent flyers who travel abroad for extended periods of time.

Finally, whereas most cards provide a maximum of just 3 days of complimentary coverage for those 65 or older, forcing seniors to pay out of pocket for additional travel insurance for longer trips, the National Bank World Elite provides free coverage for seniors up to 15 days.


Best credit card for flexible travel points

American Express Gold Rewards Card

  • Annual fee: $150
  • Get 2 points per $1 on gas, grocery, travel, and pharmacy purchases
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • Welcome bonus: Get up to 25,000 Membership Rewards points
  • Convert your Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan, Marriott Bonvoy, and more.
  • Income required: No specific amount

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

Our love for the American Express Gold Rewards Card comes down to one word: Flexibility. That’s because the points you earn on this card can be redeemed for travel in three different ways:

  • For a flat 1% per point off any travel purchase (perfect for those who prefer simplicity);
  • By transferring points to any of over half a dozen frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs (including Aeroplan, Marriott Bonvoy, and Hilton Honours); or
  • By tapping AMEX’s Fixed Points Program – whose elaborate rewards chart lets you potentially get over 50%-75% more value out of your points on round-trip flights out of Canada.

With so many options, you can redeem points strategically and travel further with fewer points. The card also comes with a 25,000 point bonus provided you make $1,500 in purchases on the card within your first three months, great insurance benefits ($5,000,000 in travel medical emergency coverage for 15 days), and up to $100 in hotel stay upgrades. The one consideration: Unlike the other cards on this list, the American Express Gold Reward Card is what’s known as a charge card, which means you won’t have a pre-set credit limit and will be required to pay off your balance in full every month.


Overview: Travel credit card point values

Working out exactly how much a travel point is worth can be tricky – especially when considering there are well over a dozen major travel loyalty and frequent flyer programs in the country that each operate according to their own rules. To help simplify things, we’ve broken the value per point in dollars for some of the largest programs in Canada when redeeming for travel.

Rewards program Value of 1 travel point
Scotia Rewards
  • $0.01
AMEX  Membership Rewards
  • $0.01
  • Or up to $0.015-$0.017 through AMEX’s Fixed Points Program
TD Rewards
  • $0.005 on the ExpediaforTD website
BMO Rewards
  • $0.007
MBNA Rewards
  • $0.01
Marriott Bonvoy
  • $0.0117 (Specifically hotel stays)
Aeroplan
  • $0.0120 on avg
Air Miles
  • $0.121 on avg.
CIBC Aventura
  • $0.0116 on avg.
RBC Avion
  • 1 point = $0.01
  • Or $0.0114 on avg.

The point values above are exclusively for travel redemptions like flights and hotel stays (as opposed to the value you’d get when redeeming points for cash back, merchandise, or gift cards). For some programs, we’ve also provided the estimated average value – such as in the case of Aeroplan, CIBC Avion, and Aeroplan – since points values in these programs can fluctuate depending on which part of the world you’re flying to and when.


How to choose a travel credit card

With Canadians enjoying more choice thanks to an ever-growing array of travel credit cards, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to pick the one that works best for you. Luckily, by educating yourself about a few key features, it can be easier to select the card that matches your needs and spending habits the most. Here are some important things to consider:

Sign-up bonus

  • While bigger is generally better when it comes to sign-up bonuses, consider whether the card is the right fit for you in the long run. Simply put, don’t let an offer alone sway you into picking a particular card since you’ll likely keep it even after the offer ends.
  • You’ll also want to get familiar with the terms of the sign-up offer, as you may need to hit a minimum spend within a specific time-frame in order to qualify for the bonus (i.e. making at least $1,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of opening your account).

Earn rate

There are two kinds of earn rates:

  • 1. A flat earn rate that offers the same number of points across the board for all types of spending – ideal for those who prefer simplicity and whose spending doesn’t skew to particular categories.
  • 2. Bonus earn rate that offers a higher return on specific categories like gas, groceries, or dining. To maximize rewards, you should ensure that any revved-up bonus categories match your spending patterns.

Flexibility

  • General travel cards offer great flexibility by letting you redeem miles or points for a range of items, including flights on any airline — an ideal option if you don’t favour a particular carrier.
  • Co-branded cards only let you redeem points with select partners, however, they often feature airline or hotel-specific benefits and perks typically not available on cards that aren’t affiliated with a specific loyalty program (i.e. free checked bags and discounts on companion flights).

Perks and benefits

  • While not as eye-catching as a big welcome bonus, perks can save you lots of money and make flying or hotel stays more enjoyable.
  • Important benefits to look out for include insurance (like medical, lost baggage, and hotel theft), rental car discounts, and airport lounge access.
  • Evaluate the relevance and value of a card’s perks by anticipating how often you’ll actually use them.

Annual fee

  • The majority of premium travel cards come with an annual fee averaging $120.
  • You’ll want to assess whether the card’s rewards and money-saving perks (like travel insurance) will help you come out ahead and offer more value than the annual fee (consider testing out our handy credit card calculator here).

Eligibility requirements

  • The top travel cards tend to have specific income and credit score requirements (typically around $60,000 and 650 respectively).
  • Ensure you fit the requirements rather than applying blind because a hard check on your credit rating could decrease your score by up to 10 points. The best course of action is to research if a card has an income requirement and check your credit score before you apply (note: unlike when a card issuer or bank inquires about your score, checking your own credit score won’t impact it in any way).

How to maximize your travel credit card’s rewards

There’s more to making the most of your travel credit card than just charging all of your purchases on it. With a little know-how and effort, cardholders can boost the benefits of any reward card.

1. One of the main ways to maximize your travel credit card (or any credit card for that matter) is to use it responsibly by paying off the balance in full each and every month. All the bonuses and benefits in the world won’t make up for the hundreds of dollars in potential interest charges you could add to your balance if you don’t pay it off in full every month. Not to mention the hit your credit score could take if you have a negligent repayment history. If you consistently carry a balance, a low interest credit card or one with a generous balance transfer option would likely be a better fit.

2. Travel credit cards are geared mostly towards travel redemptions. Though you can often use points or miles for statement credits, merchandise or gift cards, these options typically offer less value for your points than they would if redeemed for flight or hotel redemptions. For example, Scotia Rewards Points are worth $0.01 if you redeem them for travel, but lose about a third of their value if you redeem them for a statement credit. Generally speaking, if you don’t travel much yet want to reap significant rewards, it’s likely that you’ll get more bang for your buck with a cash back credit card instead.

3. Be a double-dipper. Sure, no one likes a double dipper when it comes to chips and dip, but the practice can up your rewards game by letting you earn additional rewards from an airline or hotel loyalty program when you use your travel credit card. For example, if you carry an Aeroplan credit card, you’ll earn bonus miles when shopping on the Aeroplan Estore, super-charging your point accumulation.

Different travel redemption models

There are three main redemption models by which travel credit cards operate, with each having its own level of difficulty in terms of ease of use. Some rewards programs, like American Express Rewards, even let you access multiple models.

  • Consistent points: This is when the points you earn have a consistent value and don’t fluctuate based on when or where you’re flying to. Scotia Rewards Points, for instance, always equal $0.01 when redeemed for travel. These consistent models are appealing because of their simplicity and transparency (i.e. it’s easy to determine the exact value of your rewards).
  • Fluctuating points: In this type of model, rewards don’t have a consistent value and change depending on where you go (as with Aeroplan) and possibly when you travel (as with Marriott Bonvoy, which recently introduced peak and off-peak point values). These models are usually based on charts and tables that cardholders must consult to know the value of their points. These programs are harder to understand and determining the value of your points isn’t as straightforward. That said, if you’re willing to do the research, they can offer unique and more generous redemption opportunities, such as far cheaper business class tickets or stays at ultra-premium hotels that might not normally be affordable.
  • Point transfers: Another interesting, if complex, point redemption model is when some cards let you transfer points from one rewards program to another. Marriott Bonvoy, for example, lets cardholders transfer Bonvoy points to the loyalty programs of over 40 airlines. Yes, you’ll have to put in some time to figure out the transfer ratio, but if you play it right, you can use this advantage to earn more points from one program and redeem them for a higher value by transferring them to another program.

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